Are there still ecologically intact ecosystems left on Earth?

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A recent international study affirms that a very small percentage of the land mass of the planet is still ecologically intact. Nevertheless, it is a question of a still rough estimate which should be refined over time.

Only 3% of the land surface

Climate change, massive deforestation, pollution and poaching, all activities and phenomena that harm the environment. A team of researchers from ten countries conducted a study published in the journal Forest boundaries and global change April 15, 2021. According to this work, 3% of global ecosystems would still be ecologically intact today. In other words, these places are still home to healthy populations of their native animals, whose habitat is undisturbed.

These spaces are mainly found in some areas of tropical forests from the Amazon as well as from the Congo. Others are located in the Sahara, or in the tundra of northern Canada and eastern Siberia. According to the researchers, most of the areas in question are managed by local communities. Furthermore, Antarctica is not included in the study.

The leaders of the work believe that reintroducing certain species (wolves, elephants) in certain battered areas could make it possible to restore the ecological integrity of nearly 20% of the land surface. Scientists have also pointed out that certain invasive species have had a negative impact over time on certain territories such as Australia.

Credit: nrtucker / pixabay

A study criticized but still in progress

The researchers question the results of a previous study based on satellite imagery. The latter asserted that 20 to 40% of the land surface were still intact ecosystems. According to the scientists of the new study, the appearance of the zones seen from the sky does not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground, this one being characterized by the presence and the distribution of the animals. In this new study, it is about the comparison of several types of cards. The first show the damage that humans have caused on natural habitats wildlife. The latter showing places where animals have disappeared from their original range, or appear in too few numbers to contribute to the maintenance of a viable ecosystem.

The study in question met with several criticisms, such as the undervaluation of ecologically intact areas. The leaders of the study recognize that the famous 3% are still rough estimate. According to them, the problem is simple: the lack of cards. Research is continuing and the objective is to study precisely the impact of human activity on certain ecosystems in order to define what would be the best actions to take to restore and save them.

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